Democratic power players Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders offered contrasting heartfelt and hard-headed endorsements of Democratic presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday, imploring a riven and feisty party convention to unite against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
As polls showed Trump ahead of Clinton in the race to the White House, the first lady wowed the Philadelphia crowd as she impeached Trump’s character and hailed the inspirational power of putting a female US president in the White House for the first time.
From Sanders, Clinton’s vanquished primary rival, there was a much more pragmatic embrace.
“Based on her ideas and her leadership” Clinton is a better choice than Trump and “must become the next president of the United States,” he said.
The opening throes of the four-day convention in Philadelphia were dominated by boos and jeers from disgruntled Sanders supporters almost every time Clinton’s name was mentioned.
Sanders had called on his backers to get behind the presumptive Democratic nominee twice on Monday before his prime time endorsement speech.
That included a text message sent to supporters asking them not to protest on the floor of the convention as a “personal courtesy” to him, but Sanders’ self-styled “political revolution” appeared to have transformed into an open revolt.
With some delegates in tears, Sanders received cheers and boos when he told the crowd: “Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her tonight.”
“Clinton can’t beat Trump. Period,” said Michigan delegate Melissa Arab, a Sanders supporter. “A ham sandwich could beat Trump and she’s not going to beat him. If she’s nominated, people are going to end up with somebody bad for president.”
Hoping to poach some of Sanders’ supporters, Trump tweeted: “Bernie Sanders totally sold out to Crooked Hillary Clinton. All of that work, energy and money, and nothing to show for it! Waste of time.”
Obama’s message was at once conciliatory, raw and personal — and earned by far the most positive response of the night.
“Because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all of our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States,” said the wife of the US’ first black president, her voice cracking with emotion.
The first lady reminisced about her two “bubbly little girls” Sasha and Malia as they entered the White House almost eight years ago, and how they are leaving it as “poised young women.”
However — in a thinly veiled jab at Trump — she also painted a picture of a family that along the way struggled with the shrill tone of today’s zero-sum politics.
“We urge them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith,” she said, a clear reference to Trump’s baseless claim that US President Barack Obama is not American.
Barack Obama is due to address the convention today.
“We insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country,” the first lady said in a message that Democrats will hope resonates with fathers and mothers voting in November.
“Our motto is: ‘When they go low, we go high,’” she said.
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